Approaching Your Child's Coach
Richard Stratton, Ph.D.
Coaching Youth Sports has received numerous e-mail notes from
parents asking how to approach their child's coach or otherwise
deal with a problem involving the coach. Sometimes the problem is
just with the one child and the coach, other times it involves
several athletes. The major concern seems to be how to discuss
this problem with the coach without creating problems for the
child, such as retribution from the coach.
Hopefully your child's coach held a preseason meeting with all
the team athletes and their parents. During this meeting the
coach should have discussed his or her coaching philosophy and
coaching methods, among other things. This information should
help you understand why your child's coaches are doing many of
the things they are doing.
Occasionally, however, issues or questions may arise during the
season that you might feel need to be addressed by the coach. The
most common issue seems to be the perception that a child is not
getting enough playing time. Other issues raised include the
coaches playing their own, less skilled children ahead of other
more skilled children on the team, coaches who curse and are
otherwise verbally abusive of the children, coaches who can not
or do not teach the skills needed to play the sport, and coaches
who make promises to kids but fail to follow through on these.
The Sport Parent (Human Kinetics Publishers, 1994) also lists as
possible problems: being subjected to too much pressure,
receiving only criticism from the coach for mistakes rather than
encouragement, being made fun of by peers with no response from
the coach, and being injured and not properly attended to.
What should you do when one or more of these (or other) problems
seem to be occurring?
First, you need to determine if it is a real problem. Your child
may be the best indicator of this. Does your child:
Dread going to practices or games?
Talked about dropping out without expressing any particular
Frequently come home from practices unhappy?
You need to talk to your child and try to determine what the
actual problem seems to be from their perspective. Remember, they
may be reluctant to talk about it because they are afraid of what
might happen if you go to talk to the coach.
You should also try to attend a few practices and contests to
observe or determine what is actually going on. The problem might
not be with the coach. If you believe that there is a problem
with the coach you should talk to him or her.
If the problem involves more than one athlete, the parents of the
other athletes should be included in the discussions with the
coach. Make an appointment to meet with the coach, but not at
practices or games. Explain the problem to the coach and ask for
the coach's perspective on the situation. Listen carefully to the
coach's response. Discuss any differences between your
perspective and the coach's viewpoint. Try to come to an
agreement about how the problem will be resolved.
If you and the coach are unable to resolve the problem, you may
have to take the problem to the league or organization's
administrator. In any of these meetings you must control your
emotions and maintain a positive approach. You are trying to
improve the youth sports experience for your child and the rest
of the team too.
Dr. Richard Stratton is the editor of Coaching Youth Sports, an
electronic newsletter for coaches, athletes, and parents. He is
an Associate Professor of Health Promotion and Physical Education
at Virginia Tech, where he has been since 1977. Specializing in
the psychological aspects of youth sports, his primary interests
are the developmental aspects of information processing,
motivation and stress in youth sport participants. Prior to
completing his Doctoral studies at Florida State, Stratton taught
physical education and coached four sports at Appling County (GA)